MANY people report feeling like different people when they speak a foreign language. I’ve been sceptical of these claims, since many of them seem to line up too neatly with national stereotypes: “I feel warmer and more relaxed in Spanish,” “German makes me reason more carefully” and the like. But a new study seems to show that people really do think differently in a foreign language—any foreign language. Namely, people are less likely to fall into common cognitive traps when tested in a language other than their mother tongue. The study is “The Foreign-Language Effect: Thinking in a Foreign Tongue Reduces Decision Biases” by Boaz Keysar, Sayuri L. Hayakawa and Sun Gyu An in Psychological Science (unfortunately behind a paywall, but written up by Wired here).
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